Bao Bao, the National Zoo’s panda cub, celebrated her first birthday on Saturday with a traditional Chinese ceremony.
The cub’s birth was a significant conservation success for the National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, which has been studying giant pandas for 42 years. She was born as the result of a precisely timed artificial insemination performed by the panda team at the Zoo, which included Zoo scientists, veterinarians and keepers, and scientists from the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda.
Her birthday celebration was highlighted by a Zhuazhou ceremony, in which symbolic objects are placed in front of a baby. The item the baby reached for first is supposed to indicate something about that baby’s future.
In Bao Bao’s case, three posters with symbols painted on them were hung with honey treats under each. The symbols were peaches (longevity), bamboo (good health), and pomegranates (fertility).
Bao Bao chose the peaches first, which, according to the ceremony, means she will live a long life.
The panda also received a tiered cake made of frozen diluted apple juice and dyed varying shades of pink using beet juice. Frozen between the tiers were apple and pear slices, some of the pandas’ favorite foods. The cake was decorated with flowers carved from carrots and sweet potatoes.
When Bao Bao is four, she will travel to China and enter the breeding program for giant pandas.